Readers and staff share their favorite holiday traditions and pasttimesThe traditions we experience every holiday keep our souls warm in happiness for life. Whether receiving shoes filled with goodies on December 6th’s St. Nick’s Day, putting those elves on the obligatory shelves (or toilets or chandeliers or wherever else you creative folks decide) or lighting the Menorah to recite blessings as a family throughout Hannukah, traditions remain magical fulfillments of life we yearn for and cherish every year.
As we do each holiday season, we asked our readers and encore staff and writers to share some of their favorite ways to celebrate in their households. We hope everyone finds as much joy and spirit in reading them as we did. More so, we hope they inspire new traditions while carrying on the old. Mostly, we wish everyone a happy holiday and a prosperous new year to follow—one filled with love, health and more memories to come.
Gloria Hinkle Vaughn
We have the lights off my father’s tree when he was small. We always light them on Christmas. While Daddy was alive, we were always afraid if they did not light we would lose. The lights have outlasted Daddy, so each year we set off balloons to remember our family that has passed and then light Daddy’s lights to remember him and keep him close to us.
Baking and bagging Christmas cookies and stapling money to the bags, and handing them out to homeless people. Why? Because it’s fun and awesome.
My husband and I have been together 12 years and never had a Christmas tree, just because it was the two of us. But this year we finally got a Christmas tree and went all out for decorations so our precious little girl can see all the lights and learn that Christmas is about starting new traditions as we continue to grow as a family. It’s gonna be the best Christmas ever.
@Statonator (John Staton)
We all gather ‘round the wrapping-paper bonfire.
My little brother and I always bake cookies on Christmas Eve, even to this day—though Santa may not be the one chowing down. (Historically my sugar cookies are much prettier.) My mom lets us open one present on the 24th, which is usually a new pair of Christmas pajamas, and we all settle in to watch “The Grinch” or classic Rankin and Bass films.
Now that I’m older, I like to play Santa. My parents usually put all the presents out early for looks these days. But in the middle of the night, I bring down all the gifts I’d been storing, and even add to their stockings.
Who doesn’t love to wake up to an unexpected pile of presents on Christmas morning?
Putting up all the Christmas decorations with my mom, because I live in Wilmington and my parents live two hours away. So it’s nice when I am home for Thanksgiving to help with this every year!
I look forward to taking a picture in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas with my family. I’ve done it every year since I was four.
It is no longer a tradition for us, as my grandparents have been dead for over a decade, but my father used to take the baby Jesus out of their manger scene and hide it someplace too high for them to reach. He had the advantage of being about 6 inches taller than his father (and his mother came in at 5’1”) so there was little they could do about this irksome holiday tradition.
My favorite tradition growing up didn’t involve cookies or carols or family. Operation “Intercept Santa” was all my own.
The strategizing began on Christmas Eve, when I would develop plans and diagrams, outlining the best timing and route to get me an audience with The Big Guy. I would have to leave my bedroom at just the right moment, taking care to avoid the creaky third step. Absolute silence was essential. Santa was easily spooked.
Before bed, candy would be ingested by the fistful to give me enough energy to stay alert and ready. I would stare at the ceiling from my top bunk, prepared at a moment’s notice to spring into action, waiting for any noise from the rooftop that could possibly be hoofs. I heard them often, but told myself the sounds were only tree branches and squirrels. To be sure, I would listen for the “whooshing” sound I imagined just had to accompany Santa’s magical trip down the chimney.
I never heard it. Inevitably, I would wake up at 6 a.m. in a panic, unsure if I had missed Santa or not. When I got downstairs to find presents scattered around the living room, the happy feeling of getting cool stuff was always clouded by something resembling animosity.
How did this guy get the better of me every year? He clearly used some sort of trick or sleeping spell to keep me from seeing him. “I’ll do better the next year,” I’d tell myself. “Maybe even sneak some coffee from the pot in the kitchen.”
I never did get to meet Santa, but I’m glad I tried. My childhood memories were built on mystery and wonder. As I grew older, mysteries were solved, and I stopped wondering as much. But it’s nice to remember.
Kelley Jo Cartwright-Morman
We have the usual Christmas traditions, watching the Charlie Brown special, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, but we have one that I don’t believe anyone else has. Several years ago when my kids were little, for some reason my husband came up with the “Christmas Possum” story. Yes really. He always entertains them with stories just off the cuff, but this one has lasted quite a while, considering the girls are 14 and 18 now. The story goes like this:
The Christmas possum comes one night before Christmas (we choose a random night usually), and the kids leave trash for him under the tree (nothing gross, just papers and wrappers and such, with the occasional empty Jell-O box). In exchange for these lovely treats left for him, he leaves dimes. Yes, only dimes. My oldest daughter lives in Kentucky, and I had my mom leave her some dimes with her Christmas presents last year. It may sound weird, but this is one of our favorite holiday traditions.
Kelly Messina Godfrey
My tennis team called the Wilmington Fireballs participates in the Carolina Beach Holiday Parade [during their] Festival of Lights every year. We put together a float, save lots of tennis balls throughout the year and give out candy and tennis balls to the kids watching the parade. It is very fun and festive this was our third year participating.
We started a new one this year: We went out in our boat to look for a Christmas tree to chop down. After anchoring up to three spots, me, my husband, Alan, and daughter, Brooke, found one we all liked. Alan chopped it down and we dragged it onto the boat. It’s up with lights and we love it! Was a nice family time.
Cynthia White Lee
Santa brings a new Christmas ornament each year. Only the box is in the stocking; he has hung it on the tree. The kids have to hunt for the ornament. We have over 150 Hallmark-esque ornaments on a 9’ tree, so it’s not a simple task!
As crazy at it sounds, my family gets together and we have poker tournaments and poker games going on Christmas Eve, after our White Elephant/gag-gift party. Even Grandma will play and won’t feel guilty beating her grandkids and taking our money. It’s kind of a weird tradition, but, hey, my family is a little bit crazy
Starting on the first of the four Sundays of Advent we eat a hearty dinner lit by sparse candles. Following dinner we sit by the fireplace (when we’ve been fortunate enough to have one; otherwise we use our imaginations.) I’ll have a Guinness or egg nog and we’ll all read the First Stave of “A Christmas Carol” aloud. We do the same for each of the next three Sundays and finish the tale on Christmas Day. This marks the 21st year of a tradition started the year our oldest was born. Our children have helped us read since they were 5. In impatient years we skip some of the lengthy descriptive paragraphs, but every year we do all the voices, accents and affectations expected of such a tale!